tv Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN March 22, 2013 6:00am-7:00am EDT
countries and organizations. of particular relevance in this case would be syria, iran, and transnational terrorist organizations associated with al qaeda. the political and human dimensions of war are extremely important for us to remember and an important lesson for us to carry forward. the other key aspect is that war is uncertain. we heard a lot about the failures to predict the cost of war, for example. that really is not unusual, not being able to predict the future, though we do try to do it. you could define american war planning oftentimes as a bit narcissistic in terms of defining the problems and what we would do only in relation to us. and then assuming what we like to do is not only relevant but decisive to the outcome of the war. it is for this reason that when you go to war, it is very important to be able to take action, to adapt continuously. it is this reason why
oftentimes if you try to be efficient and more by eliminating numbers of troops, for example, what was initially a decentralized hybrid, you cannot have a sufficient forces. to establish security conditions and to address the vacuum of power and ruled law left after the unseating of the hussein regime. maininal of the four continuities in the nature of war is that war is a contest of wills. we have to communicate our determination to see the effort brew that sustainable outcome consistent with our interest and worthy of the sacrifice and investments we have made in the
outcome of that work. so overall, i think it would be fair to say that we are oftentimes fixated when looking back on a conflict, on how we did on the physical battleground, how we really operated against the field of forces of our enemy organizations. what we have to do is think about how we operate and how we plan to achieve a sustainable political outcome consistent with our interest. this is a particularly important lesson now, because as we look at the war in iraq, the ongoing war in afghanistan where we still have 66,000 troops every day, there will be a tendency to again define a problem, the war in a way we think we can solve that problem in a way that is fast, cheap, efficient, and relies mainly on
technological prowess. that highlighted important continuities in more for that have to be taken into consideration at the outset. >> i mean this with respect. will we ever learn those lessons? early in the thinking about iran -- as i listen to you i thought we might well have learned a lot of those lessons. it is not so obvious that much has changed in terms of the learning, has its? >> that is yet to be seen. ultimately you can make the argument that what we learned from the wars in both iraq and
afghanistan will be as important as the outcome of those wars. we do we learn these lessons every time we go to war. the question is, will we be at all to understand these lessons and apply them to how we structure our national defense and how we prepare our civilian and military leaders to deal with future threats to national and international security. i think remains to be seen. there are some major impediments to us learn these lessons. theof those impediments is tendency in the conventional wisdom to view these wars dismissively as wars of choice or aberrations. unless you are going to say that future policy makers will make perfect policy decisions in the future based on your
perfect foresight or understanding of the situation at the outset, then we obviously have to be prepared. these are determined enemies in very complicated and burns. the other impediment is just defining -- one of the manifestations is what i call a raiding mentality that has emerged from a misunderstanding of what led to the success in iraq during 2007-2009, during which we had a very good shot consolidating gains after that time and getting to a sustainable political outcome that was consistent with our interest and the interest of the iraqi people. future work mainly is about identifying an enemy
organization in conducting raids against that organization. those rates being conducted by precision guided munitions or special forces, when in fact that sort of approach confuses military activity with progress against trying to sustain -- sustain achievable objectives. you recognize the inadequacy and the danger associated with that kind of approach to future war. in many ways it is to teach it. from the 1920's in a new guise. >> i spent all of 2002 with many of my colleagues here at carnegie arguing passionately
that every bit of declassified information available suggested that there was nothing other than some very old chemical weapon shells in iraq, many of which had been shown to be inactive by that time several years before. that the records from past u.s. intervention to change the nature of the government in the country had a very slender record of success and that iraq had none of the characteristics that would lead to success in such a venture. third, the argument was being made that it would trigger a tsunami of democratic transformation across the
region, was at best a faith based argument. you were not there in 2002, but later you became a very strong critic of this effort. what was it that changed your mind, that led you to make the arguments you did in the mid- 2000's? >> i remember vividly the night when the war commenced. i was asked by the pbs news to be there. i remember vividly all of a sudden the news came that major explosions are taking place in
baghdad, that baghdad is under air assault, and that the war had begun. i had such a sick feeling in my stomach. i said to myself, i just hope to god that we now find those weapons of mass destruction, because that was the reason why the war was started. i was already by then conscious of the fact that there was a deliberate confusion in terminology used by the administration to justify the initiation of hostilities. for the weapons of mass destruction were alleged to include atomic weapons, long- range capability to deliver them, and chemical weapons, bacteriological ones. everyone knows that the chemical weapons were invented back in 1916 and used in world
war roman one. they were not used much by the military is actual tools of war. although they were employed by the iraqis against the iranians in the 1980's and there is a and now increasing evidence that they use them in connivance with us. a book came out based on documentary evidence entitled "the making of enemies" which provide some evidence for the proposition that the targeting by the iraqis of the iranian objects, particularly the population centers, was known to us, and we are providing them precise information where to strike, knowing that the effect would be massive casualties. i remember that evening well, because by then i had begun to worry that perhaps what was being publicly asserted was not
true. but i was not convinced of it. i was uncertain. i was a skeptic. a few days before the initiation of the conflict, several former officials -- i don't remember exactly who else, but there were several there. we were invited to a meeting with rumsfeld, powell, and rice. i remember asking them, and i was conscious that evening when i saw the beginning of the war, i asked them, how certain are you that the iraqis have these weapons of mass destruction? the answer from all three of them was, it is not a question of how certain we are, we know they have them. that impressed me, because these are people i have known for a long time. when you say you know that someone has something, it means
to meet you know. it is not a question of probability, it is a statement of certitude. nonetheless, a few minutes later it still occur to me to pursue the subject, so i ask them one more question. if you know that they have weapons of mass destruction, what is the order of battle for their use, and particularly nuclear weapons? obviously if they have them and they are ready to use them, the court order of battle, whoever else has the ability to execute their use. the answer your was perplexing. they said we don't know. i found that surprising, because it seems to me that if they have certitude over the fact that they have them, presumably that certitude would extend to some sources of
information that would give us an insight into how these weapons would be used in combat. so that evening i was profoundly troubled, and i wrote an article basically arguing that we should defer the attack until sweden has had time to research within iraq for weapons of mass destruction. he was being increasingly provided with targets to inspect from the cia. one could assume the knowledge we have was being put at his disposal. i found that surprising.
it seemed if they had certitude over the fact they have them, presumably that certitude would extend to information that would give us insight into how these weapons could be used in combat. so that evening i was troubled and i wrote an article arguing that we should be for the attack until sweden had time to conclude his research, his search within iraq for such weapons of mass destruction. he was being provided with targets to expect from the cia. one could assume the knowledge we have was being put at his disposal and he was pleading for that time to complete his reports. to the un and united states and the countries egging us on. we know what happened subsequently. the weapons were never found. the war was initiated on the basis of assertions which were described as an accurate improbably simply as fraudulent. i felt that at stake was american credibility worldwide. that does have significant implications for the position of the united states in the world. and i am afraid the standings the united states enjoyed at the end of the cold war and which lasted into the beginnings of the 21st century has been very badly dissipated. that affects us adversely around the world and has serious implications for future decisions that involve war and
peace. on the basis of what has happened, what level of confidence are we as citizens entitled to have before initiating a war against iran? we do have some parties who tell us there are red lines that should be drawn immediately to read some of these red lines recently drawn have been crossed. now they are being extended by one year. what happens after that one year. and whom are we to trust? on what basis are these assertions being made, how reliable are they? and are there alternatives to war that could be feasible? we managed to deter the soviet union from the use of force regarding europe.
our friends and allies, because the protected them credibly. we made it very clear in advance that we identified our security with the security of europe and that any action would be tantamount to action against the united states. giving these assurances, we were directly vulnerable on a scale. we once had a false alarm. 85 million americans and soviets would have been dead. i was then national security advisor so i was involved in that.
so we have this consciousness of serious responsibility. we are doing the same for the japanese and the south koreans. a country that is acting openly in a seemingly irrational fashion. the impact is disturbing in terms of its questionable rationality. it has delivery systems that cover all of south korea and japan and potentially for the first time, the northwestern parts of the united states. why is it we can't do that for israel?
what does the president have to use vacant language about all options on the table, a threat to use of force. why does he have to make categorical verbal guarantees would commit him to the use of that force and create a presumption that he will? has the country as a whole been consulted? it could happen. if we wish to protect israel the threat credible fashion, karen teas which are binding than those we gave to the europeans and the japanese and south koreans. especially so vis a vis a country that cannot threaten us. iran do repeat vis a vis
what we did with iraq will probably be engaged in a conflict that is more regionally widespread than was the case with the iraq -- with iraq a decade ago. beyond that, let me make one more observation about the nature of war. democracies are very able to wage total war if they are attacked. they are not so good, they are not predisposed. i think they are mentally not prepared to wage total war if they have themself started a war but were not attacked. it is an important psychological and historical difference. we were able to break the will of the germans in large measure by massive air assaults on their civilian population.
yes, of course, it was justified by the need to disrupt transportation, undermine industry, but the the motive was let's break there will buy it burning their cities. the most classical example of that was provided by two single strikes, each of short duration and great human casualty -- hiroshima and nagasaki. within minutes, we literally incinerated several hundred thousand people. we were able to do it because we were the victims of an attack, we did not want to assume the burden of major casualty's for our industry.
we broke their will and we won the war. but look at the last several wars we have waged. where we were not in a sense the objects of threat from an enemy that could devastate us to reduce settle for a compromise in korea. we withdrew from vietnam and we did not prevail fully in iraq and afghanistan. if we wish to do so, we could have incinerated their population. but that is something that democracies do not do likely unless they feel themselves totally threatened.
in that as an important consideration to bear in mind. we are facing the prospect of a regional wars which will arouse populations and not a formal states capable of threatening us. what goes on in iraq today poses no military threat to the united states. but it is a geopolitical consequences of some cost to us. the same is true of afghanistan. god knows what will happen after we are out of afghanistan as a region as a whole. the war will certainly spread to iraq and through iraq to syria, lebanon and jordan. it would engulf western afghanistan as well which is relatively peaceful and where shiites lives. the consequences would amass a parody are now facing the possibility -- the consequences would be massive.
>> what is important as to understand why the decision was made and how military can achieve an outcome consistent with our vital interests and were the of those sacrifices. we have to understand the character a particular conflicts on their own terms. to try to seek some equivalency between world war ii and the dropping of the atomic bombs and what our response was to the murder of over 3000 americans on 9/11, you can only get limited utility out of that. talking about iraq, we also have to understand that those conflicts of vault over time. it seems in retrospect as we look at the war in iraq, we did
not describe in the agency at all to our enemies. this is another aspect of the narcissistic approach we take to understanding war and warfare. it is as if only our decisions affect the circumstances and the outcomes. but the truth is really is we faced brutal, determined, murderous enemies and the conflict evolves over time. they thought if the casualty is on us, it would work. then they attacked the
infrastructure, power lines, water pipes. this is lenin's theory. then in december 2003, he wrote a letter and said we are losing because americans will not be able to identify us but larger numbers of iraqi forces are becoming more capable. this was the iraqi civil defense corps. the strategy shifted to attacking these nascent security forces before they develop their decision -- a resiliency to stand on their own. what he said is we have to start a civil war and once we start a civil war by pitting
iraq's communities against each other, we can gain sponsorship within the communities and use that to gain control of territory and resources and perpetuate a civil war and pursue wrote our objectives of establishing the islamic state of iraq. that was march 2004. from that time on, there was a slowly evolving sectarian conflict. ofre was a problem insurgency and transnational terrorist organizations grafted onto the insurgency and the conflict at the time began to evolve into a sectarian civil war that was a in full blast after the samara bombings.
the other parties to this conflict were not just terrorist organizations committing mass murder attacks, increasingly these were shia militias. they took a different approach, got more training in iran and how to conduct assassinations, how to operate in smaller groups and emphasize sniper attacks and employ ied's. by 2006, the dominant feature of the war had become a sectarian civil war.
our strategy had not kept up with that. but it caught up with, and understanding of the character of conflict. we developed a political strategy aimed at bringing iraq's internal community's that would remove, support for either shia islamist militias. by targeting those were who were irreconcilable among both parties to that civil war. the extremist groups to press stating -- groups perpetuating that cycle. others will learn vicariously and say my best alternative is looking pretty bad. what we are willing to do now is advanced are interested rather than through
violence. the was an opportunity at that stage to consolidate and move toward a sustainable political outcome. some of those efforts failed. it is important to understand these conflicts evolved over time and were fighting enemies there who have a say in the future course of events and we need to talk more about those enemies. what are they trying to achieve, what are their strategies? family could inform the public -- then we could inform the public about what the stakes
are. as if everything we did lead to the outcome without any interaction with those whom against we were fighting. >> let's open it up to questions now. please wait for the microphone. >> thank you so much. great conference carried general mcmaster, you alluded to two concepts. given the fact the last was relatively close and one of the two candidates was advised by new conservative theoreticians and given the previous sessions focused on economic losses, the
costs inty afghanistan, how do you explain the prevalence of this philosophy in the american political discussion? >> we wil take two there on the aisle. >> thank you. iraqg spent five years in where i had the pleasure of meeting general h. mcmaster, i can tell you iraq is destroyed beyond redemption. almost 1 million iraqis died yet -- died. who should bear the moral responsibility for what happened in iraq?
>> thank you. with regards to dr. zbigniew brzezinski's comments about iran and the presiden'ts statements in israel, i am confused by what he means. i don't think the israeli government is interested in occupying a ron and i do not -- iran and i do not think the obama administration wants to do so. but it seems the strategy is to make some surgical strike to knock out the iranian pat -- iranian it's your capacity. -- nuclear capacity. is that possible for an example of faith based strategy? you have raised the importance of understanding how the opponent will respond. what is the likely response of the iranians to what is -- to what we hope will be a surgical
strike? >> i will deal with iraq and iran then there is another issue i will address. who bears this possibility? fairly the answer is obvious. we do. we started the war. the iraqis did not attack us. we went in. some may say for legitimate reasons, others miss a dubious reasons. some, like myself, for fraudulent reasons. we started its of the arrest of will for what happened. -- so we are responsible for what happened. i wish we had done better carry it -- we started it so we are responsible for what happened. i wish we had done better. i wonder how they look at us in that connection.
every war is murderous. it depends on the geopolitical and moral consequences. on iran, i do not know what a surgical strike means. we have not tried one in that set of circumstances. some nuclear facilities are located close to urban centers. what about the fall out? what about without radiation, simply the casualty's -- the casualties. how surgical can an attack on a nuclear facility be? beyond that, how effective will
the strike be? it depends on the scale. if it depends on the scale, the consequences of the earlier question depend on that scale. i suppose it has to be repeated. what happens in iran itself? will the iranian people, and joining us in justified outrage, rise in righteous indignation, overthrow the regime and apologize to us for having provoked us into attacking them? [laughter] [applause] i think the probability of that is not very high.
in more likely probability is they will join the regime in protracted anger at us which could last for decades. but without waiting for decades, we can do some things around the iranians. impeded the access of the world to energy by causing incident in the gulf terry we cannot -- in the gulf, which our navy can overcome. we cannot prevent insurance companies from quadrupling the costs of acquiring energy. there is an enormously negative impact on the global economy. particularly in asia. every adjourning area next to iran is susceptible to a local
war which used to be called people's war. passivelyus to be friendly, expecting soviet reactions. likelyasked what is the soviet reaction by the president of the united states? they may state border incidents, we have had lots of them. then he says they may invade us from mongolia where they have 22 armored divisions and strike southward towards beijing directly. he says we will use people's war, and i know what he meant. the kind of things we
experienced also. people's wars do not end quickly. we are not going to kill all iranians. inn if they do these things the region. the protracted conflict will make this experience a bit -- make this experience of a decade ago seemed like a trifle. therefore i am worried by we are trying to buy off this pressure the president is feeling for commitments to military action against iran without fully contemplating the large scale geopolitical consequences, the affect a effectthe this -- the
that we will be alone in this adventure have no illusions. even those who are attacking us o -- who are egging us on. they will not be in there with us. it is a bad choice. i don't think the president wants to do it. i think he wants to avoid it. i'm sympathetic to his position , but i wish some of our rhetoric was more careful because that could then be applicable in use by those who favor war as the to the meeting such a decision. -- who favor was as to legitimizing such a decision. therom the 1970's onward, decision to invade kuwait then the u.n.
sanctions that follow that in the effect it had on iraqi society made it all the more difficult for that society to move toward stability in the wake of the saddam hussein regime. i would blame al qaeda and iraq and those who used masss murder as a principal tactic in the war. i would ask dr. zbigniew brzezinski to visit the cities in iraq that were rocked by these murderous attacks and ask them who they blame. who blame the people committed those murders.
in 2005 when we went to a city where life was choked out of it because of a systematic attack by al qaeda, they turned that city into their training base. it is with a connected sniper training, medical training. insurgencies just that happened because people to not like america. these are organizations that mobilize resources and people. this is an enemy organization. courses offer their included kidnapping and murder. they choked the life out of the city. schools have been closed for over a year. marketplaces have a cold. -- been closed. communities have fallen in on
themselves -- marketplaces have closed. communities have fallen in on themselves. sunnis and shias against each other. the first lesson is understanding every local contact -- every local conflict on its own terms, understand its connections at the national and regional level. one observation you can make, whether in mali or northern nigeria or syria or lebanon or northern yemen or pakistan and so forth, is that these groups who are pursuing political agendas by the use of terrorist attacks -- tactics, try to gain sponsorship among certain portions of the population and
use that to gain a foothold and use the foot hole to perpetuate violence between groups. pitting groups against each other. what was necessary was to sit -- to set security condition to bring people back together. ben to remove sponsorship for these murders and took the pain and suffering on those communities. my experience has been that american soldiers took great risks and made tremendous sacrifices to break these cycles of violence and provide security so those accommodations could be made.
it is analogous to what is happening in afghanistan where you have a civil war going on, perpetuated in part by a perception that [inaudible] the left key element of population outside of the 10th. -- the tent. this became greeting -- breeding grounds. breeding grounds for terrorists, al qaeda. as people saw, providing scholarship to these groups -- sponsorship to these groups means a return to the brutal rule they experience. as soon as they saw there would be victims of that kind of oppression again and saw there was an offensive -- there was an alternative, that broke that sponsorship for those taliban groups. we have been able to consolidate gains in southern
afghanistan and eastern afghanistan. the same was true in the period after the destructive civil war for a costly war from 2006 to 2008. iraqis began together -- iraqis came together. >> a gentleman right here. >> ticket. -- thank you. since the president is taking his first foreign trip to the middle east, how do you see his policy and can he achieve something in his second term? >> i'm hoping to keep the focus on the big question before us,
which is the lessons of a decade of war. general that the mentioned how war does not often turn out the way you want it to, as the air battle concept would be too much towards. how owards that direction, did that shift resources away from europe and asia in the 2000's? >> you said regarding one of the, with in history, 3 packets of a regime but they were doing this for 3 decades. it's only in the end that the
u.s. learned of weapons. the regime was brutal all the time. >> we have the whole world on a table. onhow has our expenditures iraq affected our ability to operate elsewhere? the united states is the number one superpower. we have the largest economy. so we manage to remain engaged in other parts of the world. but that does not refer to the proposition that the war iraq was excessively expensive, not only morally but financially and physically. and it has not contributed to great regional stability but has and has greater regional
instability. the phenomenon described is increasingly pervasive. whenever there are murderers groups during nasty things, the united states has to go in and deal with it. i think it -- that is the kind of policy that our adversaries would like to see our top decline -- to see our power decline. it would be a gift to them. sure we can maintain reasonable and stable policy towards the far east. we're doing it. i also will also draw -- i hope
we will also draw lessons from the conflicts we have been in recent years. >> the question of syria. it seems to have echos about the kinds of choices and difficulties of intertwined military and political considerations we faced in director -- in iraq. >> of syria, we got off on the wrong foot. the president declared publicly that assad of syria has to go. that was a trustee had to make. that he made. one would assume that declaring a publicly involves a commitment by the united states, which the united states is prepared then to make effective.
and that therefore we have the means and strategy for achieving and objective. -- that objective. as soon turned out this was rhetorical, without a real capacity for follow-through. so we went to the un and demanded the security council support us on this. andrussians and chinese said we do not share this conclusion and we will not join you in forcing assad out and we object of the resolution fell. the russians and chinese, having engaged in this stance that is infantile and disgusting, the words used by our ambassador to the un, which is not a way of soliciting their report for -- their support for further comment policy. policy.n
it became clear that the opposition, some of it involves some of our friends, some of it involves the infiltration of al qaeda types into syria. some of it involves iranian involvement. it is increasingly evident in not have child support of group groups issupports of capable of organizing an effective military resistance. recently we announced we will provide money to the resistance troops as humanitarian aid but we would like of the arms. give not know to whom to arms and the first place. but we are going to do some people some money and humanitarian aid.
and are really alarming directly? -- whom are we arming indirectly? i think our policy is shortsighted and not particularly affected. -- effective. the best we can hope for is some international settlement still. in which somehow we will manage to get the russians and the chinese and for their than the iranians to participate. otherwise the conflict will go on and will involve the fragmentation of syria. iraq,l as an impact on lebanon on, and jordan to rid -- iraq, lebanon and jordan. >> air sea battle is an operational approach to defeat accessng enemy anti
capabilities. i am a huge fan of it. as a soldier, you cannot get anywhere unless you travel by air or sea. the use of the joint forces in the position to do what they need to do. how does it get to a strategy? it would have to deal with the four continuities of war we discussed at the beginning. on syria, i cannot really comment on that because i am not an expert at all by any means. the main thing to consider
looking back at iraq is we have to understand all of battlegrounds contested between us and our enemies. we cannot assume that what we decide to do is going to agree -- is going to achieve our objectives or explain everything that's wrong. any comments that go towards the equivalency of what our forces do and what force is due to take a 13-year-old girl and strap her with explosives and half are held the hand of a 3- year-old mentally disabled girl walk into a crowd and remotely that need -- detonate them, i don't except a kind of equivalency argument.
wheres the battleground enemies use fear and intimidation to invest their objectives. we also have to be concerned by a bout the ground a perception -- but a bout of perception. perception.round of where our motives are being made out to be imperialist or sade.zionist cru we have to become more affected by clarifying our attendance, exposing their brutality. then there is the battleground within governmental institutions we often do not recognize. this would have to do in iraq with the consultation of state infiltrations' -- with the infiltration of state institutions. tomade it difficult
strengthen the iraqi state, especially to move towards will of law and effective governance. often we do not even see that. what happened in iraq when the civil war was particularly disruptive is that circuits of -- surrogates of iran reusing state institutions to mobilize resources in what became a sectarian cleansing campaign. the approach that the rgc and proxies have taken is to make
the iraq government dependent to support. if you look at syria, the key things to keep into consideration are what are the multiple battlegrounds? an act to be a step towards -- towardsld be a step understanding what could be done to support an outcome that will stop this humanitarian catastrophe but do so in a way consistent with our interests. >> there are dozens of questions in the room. i have several dozen more but unfortunately, we have run out of time. whont to thank all of you
have been with us for this discussion, in particular dr. zbigniew brzezinski, general h. mcmaster. [applause] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] >> on c-span today, "washington journal" is next, lived with your phone calls. then we will have live coverage of the president's middle east trip as he meets king of glut of gordon -- abdullah of jordan. we will speak to philip rucker about the politics of gun control. -- frederica stanton schouten will talk about